Top 5 Predictions for Network Technology Trends in 2020

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What does networking have in store for us in 2020? What are the top networking tech trends to watch in the new year? Here are five predictions that could shaping the network market for the next 12 months.

1.SD-WAN is really starting to gain momentum

Interest in software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) grew significantly in 2019 as the scope of vendors refined and production deployments became more common. Technology has gone from a proof of concept to real deployments for many customers. Stability and vendor choice are the primary drivers for customers who decide to go ahead with an SD-WAN implementation. With most small businesses now swallowed up, the field is led by bigger players like Cisco and VMware, reducing many of the vendor risks.

2. “Next year will be important for 5G”

We heard it last year. We have heard it this year. And we’ll hear it again throughout 2020 as one of the top networking tech trends. The biggest 5G driver for networking will likely be branch office automation, often via SD-WAN. But poor 5G coverage will remain the biggest hurdle for most businesses. Carriers continue to expand their 5G trials, but without ubiquitous coverage, don’t expect wireless to supplant MPLS or high-speed Ethernet in the WAN space just yet. The year 2021 is a more realistic target, but look at SD-WAN deployments as a clue to how this is going.

3. Wi-Fi 6 won’t be a blockbuster

Wi-Fi 6 will be hot on the consumer side. But, for corporate customers, the technology will be less prevalent because the existing installation base of 802.11n and 802.11ac products properly handles wireless traffic. You will need Wi-Fi 6 clients to really take advantage of the performance and management capabilities. So until the technology is standard and not an upsell, it will not become a corporate standard. Also, to get performance gains you will need 160 MHz channels which is easier to do at home with a single device as opposed to a corporate environment with many access points installed. The financial effects of the installed base will be a brake on new deployments because the equilibrium projections will be high.

4. Everything will be activated by AI

Being AI enabled means different things to different suppliers. Look for more intelligence and predictivity on 2020 products as vendors strive to reduce the amount of manual labor involved in monitoring and managing networks. The capacity of AI in network security is a hot topic, and vendors are working hard to understand this in security products. However, the real value for money will come with the management products. AI is an interesting security facet, but most customers want to be more involved in their security. Their confidence in algorithms is growing but still has a way to go.

5. Fragmentation of network automation

The good news is that the drudgery of network management is alleviated with automation. But the bad news is the lack of real automation standards. Each supplier is automation approach slightly differently. As networks become more multi-vendor and complex, managing the automation of all of these products becomes an infinitely more important task. Automation of vending machines could be the next big opportunity.

Next steps

6 trends in the corporate campus network

This was last published in December 2019

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